It has been said that Cory Branan is too punk for country, too country for punk, too Memphis for Nashville, and probably a little too Cory Branan for anyone’s good. In the past 15 years, he has proven himself as a top-notch songwriter, fierce lyricist, and a performer with the ability to fingerpick finer than 1960s Greenwich Village folkies and brutally strum like a proto-punk shredder. Across four albums, including the just-released The No-Hit Wonder, he’s made collective struggles poetic and breakthroughs into sympathetic acts of populist heroism.
Branan is a natural-born storyteller, his seemingly conversational, painstakingly crafted anecdotes benefitting from a hard-eyed stare at life experiences. Cory’s gift for detail and phrase turning is a thing of wonder. Cory has a well-documented history with groups like former label mates Lucero, musicians of his ilk who trend toward the rawer end of roots music and rock stars like Chris Carrabba (Dashboard Confessional) who has covered Cory’s gorgeous “Tall Green Grass” and been a reoccurring tour mate.
Never one to shy away from an itinerary of non-stop cross-country shows, Branan possesses a unique performance style that enables him to gravelly sing a coy double entendre in one ear of the audience while yelling the most beautiful love song into the other.
A veteran of such beloved Memphis bands as The Oscars and True Sons of Thunder, Abe White charges out from behind the drum set to front Manateees, a raw and nasty band full of the enmity of the world. Backed by drummer Charlotte Watson (Bake Sale) and bassist Keith Hall, White delivers the unfortunate news that the apocalypse occurredquite a while ago and the world ain’t getting any better.
Darrel Petties & Strength In Praise
Darrel Petties, one of the most gifted young innovators in contemporary choral Gospel music, is wise old soul. Through the grace of God and a large extended family, he overcame the hardships of a broken home, with an absent father and a mother who had her hands full caring for him and his five siblings. Directing his church choir at age eight and sharing preaching responsibilities with his grandfather/pastor at 13, Petties lived a life of maturity from an early age. Leadership of a weeklong youth crusade in Memphis when he was 14 resulted in the formation of a 100-voice choir that would become Strength in Praise. Discovered by Gospel superstar Smokie Norful, in 2006 Petties released his debut solo release, Count It All Joy. Since then he has moved to the forefront of modern Gospel artists awho are breathing new life into the genre. Petties and his choir masterfully manage the merging of up-to-the minute R&B, urban influences and classic Gospel.
Mark Edgar Stuart
Two thousand eleven was a bad year for Mark Edgar Stuart. Shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, his lifelong friend and hero — his father Lou — passed. From that heartache came a new, unexpected direction: the decorated Memphis sideman (bandmate of Alvin Youngblood Hart, John Paul Keith, Jack Oblivian, and more) began writing his own songs. He’s a natural-born storyteller. Stuart’s debut album, Blues For Lou, is a collection of songs written in the wake of his father’s passing. Fittingly, Stuart’s songwriting pays tribute to the people, places, and music he and his father shared. Produced by Jeff Powell (Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Allman Brothers), the critically acclaimed album tells a sad story happily. Sunny acoustic guitars, breezily melodies, and restrained performances backdrop songs about loss. Powell’s production and Stuart’s pitch-perfect vocals put a brave face on a hard tale. A follow-up is due later this year.
Marcella Simien & Her Lovers
Marcella Simien is a vocalist and accordionist with a rich Louisiana Creole heritage; she is the daughter of two-time Grammy award winner Terrance Simien, a prominent zydeco recording artist. Music is a way of life for her, and it was as natural for her to meet Fats Domino and Art Neville at her dad’s concerts as it was to accompany him on tour with the Dave Matthews Band or have Taj Mahal sing her happy birthday. A native of Lafayette, Louisiana, Simien is currently living and working in Memphis, having graduated from Memphis College of Art in 2013, and is making her own name as a musician performing her own brand of “swamp soul.” Balancing original songs and unexpected covers, Simien respectfully references her zydeco roots and even blends Creole-French lyrics into her songs. She has shared the stage with Taj Mahal, Susan Cowsill, Jack Oblivian, Trombone Shorty, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Susan Marshall, and more. She was featured on her father’s most recent album, Dockside Sessions, which won a Grammy in 2014.
All-star indie power trio from Memphis made up of Natalie Hoffman (Ex-Cult), Charlotte Watson (Manateees), and Laurel Ferdon (Moving Finger). NOTS take the path less traveled when dealing with song structure, societal conventions, and the laws of thermodynamics. Impossibly cool nuevo no wavo!
This singer-songwriter and electric performer is an underground talent waiting to breakout. A Memphis native, Candace Ashir, a.k.a., Candy Fox, honed her craft performing with students from Boston’s esteemed Berklee College of Music while earning her degree at Boston College. After winning a “Boston Idol” contest, she went on to make the Top 100 in the second season of “American Idol.” She returned home and lent her vocals and fiery-energy to hip-hop/rock/soul band Free Sol, signees of Justin Timberlake. After working briefly with Universal Records’ holy hip-hop artist Mr. Del, Ashir began her solo career, releasing Soul Stir in 2009. In addition to her solo work, she can be heard with Donte Everhart and The E-TYM Movement, as well as artists such as R&B crooners Glenn Jones and R&B/Gospel sensation Dave Hollister.
Recognized as one of the nicest guys in show business, Talbot Adams has played in some of the finest bands out of New Orleans, Memphis, and Oxford, Mississippi in his nearly 15 years in music, including The Royal Pendletons, The Darkest Hours, The Dutch Masters, and the late bluesman Paul Wine Jones. After the demise of his band the Black and Whites, Adams began releasing material under his own name, recording and playing all of the instruments himself. The amazing singer-songwriter/power-pop EP Jack and Jesse was released in 2010. In February he released his self-titled full-length.
James & the Ultrasounds
Bassist James Godwin (Streetside Symphony, Jack Oblivian) has worked with some of the most notable artists in Memphis. He ventured out on his own with the release of a four-track EP titled Lovers and Ghost, and was lucky enough to surround himself with the coolest musicians in Tennessee. That same group of sexy dudes is now set to release their first full length album, Bad To Be Here in the fall of 2014 on Madjack Records.
This new group features veterans of some of Memphis most beloved bands, including keyboardist/guitarist Alex Greene and bassist Jeremy Scott (both of the original Reigning Sound and others), drummer Steve Barnat (Bluff City Backsliders), and guitarist Mike Michaud (Belmondos). Together they play and sing obscure gems from their deep record collections — British Invasion, swamp soul, ’60s and ’70s garage rock, and more.
Mighty Souls Brass Band
The Mighty Souls Brass Band is a collective of top Memphis musicians. Sean Murphy (brass bass, leader) long dreamed of a band derived from the New Orleans brass band tradition but with a Memphis sensibility. One day, fate teamed him with Jim Spake (saxes), Jeremy Shrader (trumpet, vocals), and Earl Lowe (drums) to play a N’Awlins-style funeral and Murphy’s long held dream began to become reality. With the additon of Victor Sawyer (trombone) in 2012, the band was born. The membership is fluid and ever changing like the Mississippi River itself. Performances usually range from 5-7 players but can include as many as 14 musicians!
Devil Train is an explosive bluegrass ensemble that was sentenced by the Devil himself to play Monday nights at midnight for eternity. Since 2005, the band has held court weekly at noted dive bar the Buccaneer, developing a loyal following among bluegrass purists and punk rockers alike. The gig is famous around town and was noted by Spin magazine as “what’s happening in Memphis.” Fronted by noted banjo player Randal Morton, who has shared the stage with the likes of Bill Monroe and Bela Fleck, and guitarist/fiddler Clint Wagner, Devil Train has develped a mix of authentic bluegrass, Memphis soul, gypsy jazz, and ragtime. A Devil Train show is a sampler of string music from different parts of the world and is a celebration of Memphis’ musical past from the 1900s to the present.